6/29/2013 7:29 P.M. ET
Leyland: Coke still big part of Tigers' bullpen
By Jim Hawkins / Special to MLB.com
ST. PETERSBURG -- Phil Coke has lost five games so far this season entering Saturday's game, more than the other six relievers in the Tigers' bullpen combined. His ERA is 6.56, the second highest of all the pitchers currently on the staff.
But Jim Leyland said Saturday he still considers Coke "a big part of our ballclub."
"He's been real spotty," Leyland said when asked about the struggles of the high-energy 30-year-old left-hander. "He's shown signs of brilliance, and other times he's not been real good. He's fighting himself right now. He has terrific stuff. We like him very, very much. There's no reason he hasn't done better.
"He's got terrific equipment. We have to figure out how to get the best out of that equipment. He comes in like a bull in a china shop and sometimes he pitches like one. We've got to get him to channel that enthusiasm and be a little more of a pitcher."
For now, Coke will probably be used as a situational lefty to get the Tigers out of an inning.
Tigers' bullpen straightening out into form
ST. PETERSBURG -- Jim Leyland believes he may finally have the Tigers' bullpen straightened out.
"We're probably two more good starts away from getting the bullpen in sync for the first time all year," the Tigers' manager said Saturday. "And I'm thrilled about that.
"It's been messed up all year long. No excuses. No sympathies. But we've been searching all year, trying to get some synchronized stuff down there. We've been lopsided one way or the other. Either our starters have been going so long there hasn't been enough work for the bullpen, or they weren't going very long at all. We needed to get some sense of order.
"Now we're an eyelash away from having the bullpen lined up the way we like it. We've got a chance, we've got a shot, to get it straightened out. And that would be music to my ears."
The way Leyland has the bullpen set up, Joaquin Benoit will be the closer, Al Alburquerque will replace Benoit as the setup man, and Bruce Rondon and Drew Smyly will handle the seventh inning. Phil Coke will be the situational left-hander and Luke Putkonen and Darin Downs will work in long relief.
"How good can our bullpen be? I can't answer that. But I think it'll be the best it can be with the guys we've got," Leyland said.
"But if our starters aren't any good, it wouldn't matter who is in the bullpen," he added.
Tigers reflect on Prince's 'gigantic' home run
ST. PETERSBURG -- How far would Prince Fielder's towering moonshot home run on Friday have traveled if it hadn't struck the catwalk high above right field at Tropicana Field?
"I don't have any clue where that ball would have come down," Jim Leyland said Saturday. "It was just a gigantic shot, obviously. I wish it hadn't hit the catwalk. I would have like to have seen where it came down. But unfortunately we didn't get a chance to see that. It's very rare when you hit the exact sweet spot on the bat. And Prince hit the sweet spot."
The Rays' PR staff estimated the distance at 414 feet. ESPN placed the distance at 389. Many Tiger fans are convinced the ball traveled much farther than that.
Where would that ball have landed in old Tiger Stadium?
"Off the facing of the third deck at Tiger Stadium, I would think," said third-base coach Tom Brookens, who played at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull during the 1980s.
Fielder, who took batting practice at Tiger Stadium as a youngster in the early 1990s when his dad, Cecil, played for the Tigers, wouldn't venture a guess.
"I couldn't visualize where it would have hit," he said.
Cabrera falls triple short of cycle for 23rd time
ST. PETERSBURG -- Lost amidst all the hoopla that followed Miguel Cabrera's two gigantic home runs on Friday night was the fact that with a single and a double in addition to those two home runs, Cabrera fell a triple shy of completing the cycle.
According to Bill Chuck of BaseballAnalytics.org, it was the 23rd time in his Major League career that Cabrera has come within a three-bagger of hitting for the cycle.
Since 2003, only Albert Pujols has been a triple shy of the cycle more often. He has done it 24 times. It has happened to Alex Rodriguez 22 times.
Cabrera fell a double short of the cycle on July 6, 2010 against the Orioles.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.